Making friends with the characters she plays

You'll love Shirley Valentine

“It’s better than brilliant. It’s mega brill. It’s double fab, yeah.”

It is very strange, but after I work on a character, I feel like they are a friend of mine. Perhaps it is because when I am rehearsing, I spend so much time with them-researching, moving, talking, dressing and thinking like them.

When a play is over, I usually don’t want to leave the character, so I think of them fondly as a long lost friend. In my next show, I think I have found my theatre bestie, Shirley Valentine.

Shirley Valentine was a hit one-woman play written by Willy Russell, a lad from Liverpool who got frustrated with school when he was 15, dropped out and became a hairdresser. His time spent with women and the secrets they revealed to him in his chair inspired him to go back to school and later on to college, where he studied drama and writing.

His time as a teenage hairdresser also shaped the characters he wrote, most notably Rita from Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. Both were icons of the late 1980s and inspired other strong female-driven movies, like Thelma and Louise.

Willy Russell and Pauline Collins, who originated the role on stage and in the movie, were nominated for, and won, multiple awards, including Oliviers, Tonys and Drama Desk Awards. Collins’ brilliant characterization in the 1989 film also saw her nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress and won her a Golden Globe for Best Comedy performance.

To know Shirley Valentine is truly to love her. She is a middle-aged housewife in Liverpool who spends her days in a lonely existence but dreams of a life “outside the wall” that she talks to all day long.

When the opportunity to travel to Greece is offered to her, she is reluctant to go at first, but then has the adventure of a lifetime. “First Greece, Shirley, then the world!”

Strange as it seems, I am constantly laughing about the things Shirley says in her “scouser” blunt but beautiful way of seeing the world.

I am a woman who is happy in her marriage, is very close to my sons and has a rich work life, but even so, I can really relate to Shirley in so many ways, especially her feelings about aging and loneliness.

I spent much of this year recovering from a car accident I had last summer and, honestly, never felt so left out and lonely. Shirley inspired me to make the most of my “unused” life, to not take myself too seriously, to be like Shirley the Brave and “just go”.

Where am I going next? You can catch me onstage as Shirley Valentine in Studio 100 at the Rotary Centre for the Arts in Kelowna from May 11 to 13.

Tickets are almost sold out, so get yours at https://www.showpass.com/shirley-valentine/.

I do think, however, you will likely see me play this role again. It’s going to be too hard to leave this friend behind.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


It’s the best of Christmas in one play

North Pole Stories

Is anyone ever too old for the holidays?

My answer is no, but I think it is easy at this time of year for some people do get overwhelmed and some even cynical with the marketing that comes our way.

I am a huge fan of the season, but this year I have had a few setbacks—a car accident I am still recovering from and the passing of two very close family members, my grandma Betty Sawyer and my uncle Gord Sawyer, both within a month of each other this fall.

When those things happened, I had written the first draft of North Pole Stories but I must admit my view on Christmas this year changed. I wouldn’t be physically able to put it all together as in past years. I would be sad about the notion of celebrations without my lovely grandma and jokester uncle. The high-octane version of myself at Christmas was not going to happen this year.

That’s when I decided to reshape what I wanted to do with North Pole Stories.

I remembered what I loved most about my family at Christmas and what made the 10-year-old version of me happy at celebrations with them—food, classic movies, games and laughter. Oh, the sweet, wonderful laughter of our family is what I adored.

My grandma also took to Christmas to recount our favourite family stories. I am so grateful to have recorded her voice retelling some of them.

So in the next draft of my play, I put all of my holiday favourites in, sort of like a Christmas version of Shrek, with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Elves encountering a 10-year-old boy who thinks he is too old for Christmas.

Determined to change his mind, they act out their favourite stories, which include Christmas' most popular characters and songs. There are twists and turns as in any good tale, with funny hidden references, but in the end, it is all about family.

North Pole Stories features a talented all-ages cast of performers, many who have been part of our holiday shows over the past 10 years including Josie Morrow, Kimberly Billinton, Elizabeth Flowers, Chuck Peeren, Lyndon Blacklaws, Kennedy Bollhorn, Harsh Hundal, Eddie Beaumont, Hayden Carmichael, Tiffany Horak and Gavin Nahachewsky.

My son Reid, who often is backstage, even plays a role and as always, my husband Derek has created a magical set that will be a showstopper. My team behind the scenes, Matt Costello and Ozzy Olsen, as well as the RCA staff bring it all together beautifully.

Even though this year has been a difficult one, ultimately it is the incredible stories and support of my family, on stage and off, that is helping make this one sweet.

I hope you will see North Pole Stories at the Rotary Centre for the Arts fromDec. 8 tp Dec. 17. Shows are at 7 p.m. nightly, with student matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available at rotarycentreforthearts.com

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Get ready to celebrate the 'Summer of Fringe'

Kelowna Fringe Festival

It’s The Summer of The Fringe-August 29-Sept.4

Kelowna Fringe Festival is coming.

This event is like Woodstock for theatre lovers, and so this year’s event is called the “Summer of Fringe.”

Here is the lowdown on the coolest performance festival this summer.

What is a "Fringe" festival?

Kelowna Fringe Festival is one of hundreds of Fringe Festivals held worldwide. These are non-juried festivals where the performers get to keep 100% of their ticket sales. The first, and largest, Fringe Festival is in Edinburgh, Scotland and the second largest is in Edmonton. Our festival is unique in that it is all throughout the Central Okanagan—in Lake Country at the Creekside Theatre, in Kelowna at the Rotary enter for the Arts (RCA), the Kelowna Community Theatre (KCT) and Black Box Theatre, as well as at Grizzli Winery in West Kelowna.

All shows are shorter (most are 60 minutes or less) to allow audiences to see many shows in a day and over the run of the festival.

What will you see at this year’s festival?

There are 30 productions at this year’s event and a whole range of events, with and most 60 minutes or less in length.

Musical performances will include tributes to Peggy Lee and Sarah MacLachlan, Footloose—The Musical, folk duo Josh + Bex and beloved local jazz artist Anna Jacyszyn with a new show called “Can I Sing A Song For You”.

Really Scary & Silly Scary Plays this year include: Screamish, a new comedy by Erin Hazelhurst and The Thin Place, an Okanagan premiere of Lucas Hnath’s intimate tale of a séance that becomes all too real at a cocktail party.

One-person shows are huge this year, with Inspired Word’s award-winning poet Erin Scott’s Sweeping Meditations, West Coast artists’ Regan Schrumm, Charlie Whelton and Amazon featured comic Ed Hill all taking it to the stage, while Toronto artist Laura Piccini is performing her acclaimed hit Lesbihonest about her experience coming out.

Another must see is Flora Le, from Washington, D.C., with her touching storytelling show called Sadec 1965, an Eat, Pray, Love-style show about how she went to Vietnam and retraced her father’s experience there.

Expect the unexpected with new works by Jessica Hamilton (Here’s Johnny) and David Heyman’s award-winning cast in Bathsheba and The Books.

We even have an interview show from Kamloops coming that has a very unique host called Zorblax The Destroyer, who despite his name, plans to pull out all the stops in his live variety show featuring local musicians and Fringe performers. New Vintage Theatre is holding its Black Cat 10-Minute Play festival as well, with the winner to be crowned on the second night of performances.

Comedy is a big part of this year’s event and besides Ed Hill, you can check out two great comedies at Creekside Theatre in Lake Country. Both The Morning After with Pam and Paula and All’s Fur In Love & Noir have toured extensively and garnered great reviews.

At each site there will be buskers and the opportunity to purchase food and drinks.

How do I get tickets?

You can take a chance and buy tickets at the door of each show or line up your tickets now at www.kelownafringe.ca. Tickets are inexpensive, ranging from $13 to $21, to allow for people to see as many shows as possible.

What’s “wearing your Bear pin” about?

Because 100% of ticket sales go to the artists, New Vintage Theatre has to sell bear pins to help cover the costs of this expensive event. Costs include venues, staff, equipment rentals and insurance. By purchasing an official Fringe 2022 Bear Pin, you not only get a funky cool accessory, you also ensure there will be an event in future years, too.

Should I dress up?

Everything goes at a Fringe Festival. Dress up. Come casual. Rock your inner rockstar or hippy.

Now you know all you need to know, so come out and Fringe Aug. 29 to Sept.4.

Check out our full line-up at www.kelownafringe.ca or pick up your program at Rotary Centre for the Arts, Grizzli Winery or the Creekside Theatre.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


The SpongeBob Musical makes waves in Kelowna

Welcome to Bikini Bottom

Bikini Bottom is on my list of must-visit destinations this summer.

If you know where Bikini Bottom is, you are a fan of the worldwide Nickelodeon hit cartoon SpongeBob. If you don’t know the tv show, you will be a fan after seeing the Tony Award-winning The SpongeBob Musical, playing July 7 to 17 at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

While I was working on the heavy, beautiful drama Cabaret, the award-winning director Ryan Grenier, noted musical director Spencer Bach and uber-talented triple-threat choreographer Dawn Ewen were literally rocking out and working on this cult smash hit and having enviable amounts of their own fun.

The play is packed with incredible original music by heavyweights like: Panic at The Disco, Lady A, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, The Flaming Lips, John Legend, and more. Only a team this talented could tackle the complex cavalcade of colourful characters, set and hundreds of props, costumes, crazy set pieces and special effects to recreate the playful undersea world of Bikini Bottom.

While SpongeBob is a character known and adored worldwide, you don’t need to be a kid or a fan to love this charming play with very relevant themes that will leave audiences happy, but wiser.

Featuring a who’s who of Kelowna’s hot musical theatre scene, The SpongeBob Musical stars Corey Hendricks, Stephen Keppler, Jaclyn Keppler, Mark Wells, Tayler Harrison, Ashley Armour, Alex Patterson, Joanne Ryan, Josie Morrow, Matt McLaughlin, Toan Nguyen, Allie Sieben, Kristy Keus, Shelby Quering, Kristy Baillie, Riley Gayford, Abi Junop and Frankie Booker with live foley by Azeen Maleki.

Several of these artists have returned to Kelowna from across Canada just to work on this incredible, impressive show.

Dress in yellow to celebrate summer and the sunny disposition of SpongeBob, the play’s hero, or if you are a fan, come as your favourite SpongeBob character.

You might not be able to catch a flight to Broadway this summer but New Vintage Theatre is bringing a Broadway quality show to Kelowna. This Okanagan premiere is something to bring your family too, as well as friends and visitors.

The SpongeBob Musical will run July 7 to 17 at the Mary Irwin Theatre in the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Tickets are on sale at the Rotary Centre For the Arts.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Bonnie on Stage articles

About the Author

Bonnie Gratz is an actor, director, and playwright. She is the Artistic Director of Kelowna's New Vintage Theatre, and a member of the Playwright's Guild of Canada and The Literary and Dramaturges of North America. 

For more on Bonnie, check out www.bonnie-gratz.com or check out www.newvintage.ca

Contact Bonnie at:  [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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